Campaigners say case of Bahraini footballer Hakeem al-Araibi now an ‘emergency’

first_imgActivists campaigning for the release of the Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who has been detained in Thailand since November after an Interpol red notice was wrongly issued against him, say his plight has become an emergency.The warnings came from Brendan Schwab of the World Players Association and the former Australia captain Craig Foster after news that Bahrain has formally submitted an extradition request for Al-Araibi’s return. Read more Bahrain Share on Twitter Schwab and Foster were in Zurich on Monday to urge Fifa to do more to save Al-Araibi, who fled Bahrain after being beaten by police and was given refugee status by Australia, over fears he will be tortured or even killed if he is sent back.“The situation is very urgent because, even if Bahrain does not succeed in extraditing Hakeem, the consequences for him of spending months or even years in the prison while his case drags will be destroying for him,” Schwab told the Guardian. “We are clearly facing a human rights emergency which needs to be elevated to the highest levels in Bahrain and Thailand. We need to see progress – and fast – for Hakeem’s sake.”Foster, meanwhile, said he wanted the case “resolved before Friday” after meeting the Fifa secretary general, Fatma Samoura.Al-Araibi and his supporters believe the fact he was a critic of Sheikh Salman Bin Ibrahim al-Khalifa, a member of Bahrain’s ruling family when he contested the Fifa presidential election in 2015, has led Sheikh Salman to seek revenge. In 2016 Al-Araibi was given a 10-year prison sentence in absentia after being convicted of vandalising a police station, even though he was playing in a televised match at the time the crime took place.“After meeting Fifa we believe it understands the gravity of the case,” Schwab said. “The urgent challenge now for football is to come up with a way to solve it.”On Monday Bahrain’s interior minister defended his government’s pursuit of al-Araibi, claiming concerns he will face torture and unjust imprisonment if he is returned are “false reports”. Football must go in hard on Bahrain over the Hakeem al-Araibi affair Guardian Australia sport newsletter: subscribe by email Share on Facebook Asia Pacific Read more Share on Pinterest news Thailand Topics Share on WhatsApp Reuse this content Human rights Share on Messenger Share on LinkedIn Refugees Hakeem al-Araibi Share via Email Sean Ingle The minister, General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, said the rule of law prevailed in Bahrain, pointing to al-Araibi’s release on bail from the initial charges – which allowed him to flee and claim refuge in Australia.“The external interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain is unacceptable,” he said.“Those raising unfounded doubts about the integrity and independence of the Kingdom’s judicial system are not only interfering, but also attempting to influence the course of justice.”He said there was a need to “respect the legal proceedings and not to ignore the facts by spreading false reports and biased and non-objective information”.The Bahraini government’s communications office did not answer specific questions about its attempts to have al-Araibi returned, including how it obtained an Interpol red notice in contravention of Interpol policies designed to protect refugees.Previous statements from the Bahraini government defending its justice system have been labeled “absurd” by human rights groups, noting multiple investigations and reports on the torture and mistreatment of prisoners and targeting of opposition figures.Yahya Alhadid, president of Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, pointed to the recent death sentences delivered by the Bahraini court against political detainees and life sentences against opposition leaders.“This is a serious indicator of what is waiting for Hakeem if extradited back to Bahrain,” he said.“The judge, Mohammad Bin Ali al-Khalifa, who sentenced al-Araibi had upheld the court of cassation’s sentence against the prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, a few days ago, over a tweet posted on his personal Twitter account.” Australia sportlast_img

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